CLEVELAND - The escaped animals in Muskingum County put Ohio in the spotlight for having some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Wednesday that former Gov. Ted Strickland's executive order earlier this year banning some exotic animals wouldn't have prevented the situation in Zanesville. Kasich said Strickland's plan was "unenforceable."
Kasich said, "Look, Ohio has not been able to regulate exotic animals, I come in and my folks come in and say it has to be done and done correctly."
Kasich said Strickland’s order was not complete. There were no clear instructions on how it would be put in place, no resources named to help reinforce the ban, and that’s why he didn’t sign an extension in April.
Jack Hanna, Columbus Zoo's director emeritus, said Ohio was just six weeks away from having new rules regulating the sale and ownership of exotic animals. Kasich said he hopes to have something in place by the end of the year.
“We do have lax laws,” Hanna said, while standing with the Muskingum County sheriff.
Hanna spoke with Gov. John Kasich Wednesday morning and said he plans to meet with him and a committee on Monday.
The new rules will regulate how the law will be enforced, who will inspect places, and how to shut down exotic animal auctions in Ohio.
“I’m not the governor, but I’ll do everything I can over my dead body to put these people out of business,” Hanna said.
The committee proposing the rules includes representatives of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Humane Society of the U.S., Knox County prosecutor's office, Ohio Association of Animal Owners, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, and Zoo Association of America.
Hanna said the committee doesn’t want to penalize good breeders.
“Keep these good breeders. We don’t want to shut everyone down,” he said.
Kasich said, "We're going to allow this working group to move, now obviously move faster."
On Jan. 6, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland issued an executive order banning “the keeping of big cats, bears, wolves” in Ohio. Kasich had let that order expire.
The state currently requires permits for bears, but doesn't regulate the ownership of non-native animals such as lions and tigers, The Associated Press reported.
The Humane Society of the United States on Wednesday urged Ohio to immediately issue emergency restrictions on the sale and possession of dangerous wild animals.
"How many incidents must we catalogue before the state takes action to crack down on private ownership of dangerous exotic animals?" Humane Society Wayne Pacelle said in a statement.
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